In this feature, Brian Mitchell, Genealogist with the Heritage and Museum Service and regular contributor to the ‘Journal’, reveals details of the aftermath of the 1688-89 Siege of Derry, as documented in centuries-old Londonderry Corporation minute books now preserved at the NI Public Records Office...
The early minute books of Londonderry Corporation also clearly demonstrate the tension in the town between the city’s garrison and its citizens after the lifting of the Siege of Derry in July 1689.
The town’s citizens were facing financial ruin yet they were expected to continue to subsidise the stationing of troops in the town. At the meeting of Londonderry Corporation on 7 July 1690 a motion was raised “concerning the ruinous state and condition of this City by reason of the Late Siege and the utter inability of many of the Inhabitants therein, To repair their Respective Tenements, much Less to rebuild those that are beat doun by the Bombs.”
In March 1690 the Corporation had already agreed to a loan of £50 for the subsistence of Colonel Fletcher’s regiment until he received payment from his Head Office.
The minute book of 20 March 1690 reports: “Upon a Discourse in reference to a motion made by Colonel Fletcher, present Governor of this City, to the Mayor, for subsistence to his Regiment till money be sent him from the Head Quarters, for that purpose: And to prevent any Outrages, or abuses, to the Inhabitants by reason of the Souldiers present want of their pay, To Maintain, or Subsist them. Ordered that William Crookshanks Chamberlain, Advance, and pay the said Colonel Fletcher, for the use, or present subsistence of his Souldiers the sum of Fifety pounds Sterling, and to take his Bond for repayment thereof.”
Six months later, there was very real concern, which was expressed to Major Ramsey, the Governor, that quartering four companies of soldiers from Colonel Deering’s regiment was resulting in “the utter ruine of the poor Citizens”.
The minute book of 11 September 1690 states: “Upon consideration had of the very many sad complaints of the poore Inhabitants of this place, who have ever since the Latter end of May last past, Quartered Foure Companies of Colonel Deerings Regiment, and paid them after the rate of 3 pence of Diem for each Soldier, for each Drummer and Coporall 4d½ of Diem, and 5s 3d weekly to each Sergeant whereby the poore people of the Toune are exhausted of any money they had, ingadged in Debt many of them, and by the Soldiers Disstraineing on them, Divested of what Little goods or household stuff they had. And since the Toune hath no money to Lend them of their own, nor can advance any upon their credit.”
Two months later the Corporation was deliberating on “the great wrong and abuse Done to this Corporation, as well as Several of the Inhabitants in this City” by horses belonging to the Garrison’s officers grazing on their lands without payment and damaging their property without compensation.
The minute book of 18 December 1690 reports: “Upon a Motion concerning the great wrong and abuse Done to this Corporation, as well as Several of the Inhabitants in this City by Major Ramsey present Governor thereof, and his Officers, In trespassing upon the Parks and Meadows about the said City and sending their Horses to eat up the Grass was thereon, without makeing any Satisfaction for the same. All Persons concerned are to bring in the Lists of their several Damages to the Chamberlain and Mr Alex. Coningham on or before Monday next the 22nd instant, who afterwards are to make their application to the said major, in order to his redressing the same.”
Four years later, the quartering of soldiers was a continuing source of grievance with a petition being made to the Corporation from private householders requesting that, in future, the Garrison’s soldiers be quartered in public buildings and not private dwellings.
The minutes of 7 August 1694 record: “On reading a petition of the private housekeepers, praying this Comon Councill to represent to the Government, their great grievance, by quartering of Soldiers on their private houses, praying the Government they may be Exempted from such quartering, and the publick houses to quarter the Garrison.”
For more information about archives in the care of Derry City Council please contact the Archivist, Bernadette Walsh at the Harbour Museum (telephone: 71. 37 7331).